Monday, January 10, 2011

Mathematical Reasoning Review

In May of last year I wrote about Mathematical Reasoning Level A and how we are going to use it as our math curriculum for the year. Well, my plans fell apart pretty quickly. My daughter was not at all interested in any activity involving putting a pen to paper, and I didn’t want to make her do something that she was not interested in. We still covered most of the material presented in Level A (Kindergarten Math) through math games, math books and Dreambox Math. I was excited, however, to get a chance to receive Mathematical Reasoning Level B (First  Grade) for review from Timberdoodle. After looking through the book I decided to use Level B and fill the gaps as needed with material from Level A. I usually let my daughter choose 2 pages from the book and pick 1 or 2 pages myself. We had a lot of progress during my winter break when Smarty could do math in the morning in her pajamas and focus on her work.
One of my reasoning for selecting this particular book for review and picking up Mathematical Reasoning Level A last year was the promise of not just drills but also teaching students to think logically and analytically through unconventional exercises included in these books like Thinker Doodles, Mind Benders and “Think About It” exercises.  The publisher of these books, Critical Thinking Press, has separate books with these exercises. We own one of them called Can You Find Me, and Smarty really enjoyed solving logical challenges in that book. Alas, Mathematical Reasoning Level B had only a few of those unconventional exercises – most of the book is focused on traditional “numbers and operations” math. Overall my verdict is this:
Pros:
• 1. Good coverage of material – the table of contents spans two pages and includes Odd/Even, Number Line, Addition, Temperature, Money, Real World Problems and many other topics.
• 2. Bright graphics – I admit that in this day and age I prefer full color textbooks and workbooks to black-and-white versions.
• 3. Unconventional exercises (see above, I just wish there were more of them).
Cons:
• 1. The structure of the book drives me crazy. Yes, I get it – it’s a spiral method. However, exercises seem to change without any logic and any warning. The suggestion in the book is to do pages in order, but I get stressed without seeing how one exercise is related to another, and my daughter seems baffled too.
• 2. I kept thinking looking through the book that there must be some sort of companion textbook or a teacher manual similar to Singapore Math, but I don’t think there is one. I don’t think that new concepts are introduced in enough depth in this book. Experienced math teachers (or math enthusiasts like myself) might get by and pull other resources to introduce new concepts, but I wouldn’t recommend this book as a core math curriculum for homeschooling. However, Timberdoodle offers variety of homeschooling math resources including well-regarded Horizons and Miquon Math curriculums.
Will we use this book going forward? I think so, but definitely not in “page by page” manner. I still think that we are going to do what we were doing before and do most math through books, games, Mind Bender challenges and other logic puzzles. Worksheets can wait until Smarty is officially in school unless she volunteers to do them.

Be sure to check out more great items from Critical Thinking Press section for more great products! While you’re there, be sure to sign up for their free catalog! You can also find Timberdoodle on Facebook and on the Doodle Blog!
Disclosure: As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team, the Mathematical Reasoning Level B book was given to me free of charge. IAll opinions expressed in this post are unbiased and my own.
I am linking this post to Math Links hosted by Joyful Learner.

The girl who painted trees said...

Thanks for the review. I think math is so much more fun as games and hands on experiences than as worksheets anyway.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

I've found the problem of new concepts not being well explained repeated throughout the "math workbook" world, even when the workbooks are stand alones, without a text.

Christy said...

Great review. We have the same book to review, but we are just starting to use it.

Our elementary school uses Singapore math and I love the way it is taught. Instead of just saying, it is what it is, it all seems to make so much sense. As a matter of fact, when I went to parents night for T's eighth grade classes, I got a better understanding of multiplying fractions than I ever got in school. I could always do it, but now the explanation makes so much more sense. I love the way math is taught now, so I am always hesitant to use anything different at home. We'll see how we do with this book.

Debbie said...

Thank you for this resource, they offer a few things we will be needing to go with our choice for curriculum at a better price then I have seen any other place. I agree with Leah, workbooks alone usually do not make change in materials very smooth.

MaryAnne said...

Your Timberdoodle reviews have me very intrigued about this company - seems like a curriculum that might interest my kids.

Joyful Learner said...

That reminds me of the CIMS curriculum I had to use when I was teaching. I used to jump around to put the similar ideas together but because of testing requirements, I had to teach it in the spiral sequence which drove me crazy! It only gave a surface understanding and by the time it spiraled around, you had to reteach because it was forgotten! Only students who were strong in math did well. I prefer Singapore Math in terms of introducing concepts.

Ticia said...

I love Critical Thinking Company, they make so many great things.

Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog said...

This review is so helpful! I've heard good things about Critical Thinking Company, and I like the idea of letting the kids pick out a few pages and then I'll pick out a few too.

MommyWise said...

Thanks for the review. I'm about to order from the Critical Thinking company myself. I Love a lot of their stuff. But I only want them as the supplement... not as the spine.

Mom and Kiddo said...

Interesting. I keep thinking I should be doing more after schooling with Kiddo with regards to his math, esp. since he is so into it. I've barely done anything with him in the past year. was interested in DreamBox, but I haven't gotten to it yet. Some people have 5 kids and have the energy and brain power homeschool. I have only 2 and feel totally wiped out.

Our Homeschool Fun said...

I have many of the same feelings as you about this book. My review isn't due for a while, but I am not liking the lack of teacher instruction and do not feel this could in any way be a full math curriculum. I think it's a great supplement and Joe really likes it--much more than me:-).